Monday, July 11, 2011

AG again finds KSP violated Open Records Act

Attorney General Jack Conway, the state's chief law-enforcement officer, has again found the Kentucky State Police, the state's main law-enforcement agency, in violation of the state's open-records law – this time in a case involving the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire that killed 165 people, one of the deadliest fires in American history.

The case began when David Brock, who is seeking evidence in the supper club fire, asked the state police for all photos and slides related to the fire. The state police gave him some black and white photos but refused to pursue access to color photos that had been taken home, with permission, by former trooper Ronnie Freels.

Conway's opinion, written by Assistant Attorney General Amye Bensenhaver, rejected the state police's contention that Freel's pictures were not in their control. Since they were removed with permission, they remained official state records and the state police must recover them and furnish copies to Brock, the opinion said, adding, "While KSP is not obligated to 'verify Mr. Brock’s assertion' that Mr. Freels maintains additional responsive photographs and slides relating to the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, it must secure those records from Mr. Freels so that Mr. Brock is afforded the opportunity to do so himself."

The opinion called the police's action a "serious open records management issue that involved subverting the intent of the open records law, as well as the laws governing records management and retention." The opinion noted that the attorney general's office had referred the matter to the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives "for further inquiry." For a copy of the opinion, click here.

The attorney general's office earlier found the state police had repeatedly violated the records law in a homicide case, and a survey last year by the Kentucky Open Goverment Blog showed many news organizations in the state labeled the Kentucky State Police as "stingy" with public information.

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